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  Wow 2002 
Artist: Various
Label: Word Entertainment
Length: 33 tracks on 2 discs/133:13

Contemporary Christian music continues to branch out into all areas, with artists seemingly patterned after whatever is popular on secular radio.  This makes it difficult to determine who is imitating whom ­ is the Christian community of artists copying the secular market for sake of sales, or are they simply producing music from their hearts that happens to feature the same influences that we all grew up on?  While I tend to be on the cynical side, the answer is probably "both".

Wow 2002 does its best to be the Christian version similar to the incredibly successful "NOW that's What I Call Music" series, down to the cover of the CD.  The packaging and marketing is directed toward two markets ­ youth and adult contemporary.  Shamefully, these two markets produce most of the sales generated in CCM, as that is what makes up 90% of Christian radio. The problem is, sales does not equal quality.

The usual suspects are here ­ the adult contemporary disc features Steven Curtis Chapman, Point of Grace, Avalon, Mark Schultz, Plus One, Michael W. Smith, Rebecca St. James, FFH, Rachel Lampa, Anointed, Jaci Velasquez, Caedmon's Call, 4Him, Shaun Groves, and Bebo Norman.  The standouts here are "We Delight" by Caedmon's Call, and "Cover Me" by Bebo Norman, although it is nice to see newer voices Schultz and Groves singled out for recognition .  No need to mention other titles ­ if you listen to Christian radio, you've heard them all hundreds of times.

The "CHR" disc is aimed at younger listeners, although I don't know who decides these things.  Newsboys, Third Day ("40 Days"), Audio Adrenaline, ZOEGirl, Toby Mac, Jennifer Knapp, Stacie Orrico, Out of Eden, Kevin Max, Nicole C. Mullen, Jump5, Tait, True Vibe, Joy Williams, and the City on a Hill group are all here.  Most of this disc is bubblegum pop, or faux R&B groups who are a pale imitation of the NSync/Backstreet Boys genre.  The good news is contained in the three solo works by DC Talk artists-­they are at least listenable.

The best tracks on these two CDs are ironically enough the hidden tracks ­ The Elms' "Hey Hey" continues to prove they are one of the best power pop groups in music today.  Andrew Peterson performs "Isn't it Love" on disc two.  Both of these songs compare favorably to anything else on the project.

This compilation will be a huge success in terms of sales, but if you want a sampler that features quality music, I highly recommend's Sampler II. Wow 2002 did not "wow" me.

Brian A. Smith 12/29/2001



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